11 November 2009
“Tragedy and the Common Man” in Hamlet
Arthur Miller notes that, “The tragic feeling is evoked in us when we are in the presence of a character who is ready to lay down his life, if need be, to secure one thing—his sense of personal dignity” (1). This characteristic seen in most tragedies is definitely evident in the character of Prince Hamlet in Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. The moment that Hamlet learns from the ghost that Claudius has committed regicide, his goal becomes clear: he has to avenge the death of his father by murdering his uncle. Hamlet could not stand idly by while the assassin of his saintly father had an affair with his mother Gertrude and lied to the people of Denmark. However, Hamlet’s tragic flaw prevents him from taking action quickly. During the course of the play, the prince notes that he has yet to perform any action against his uncle Claudius, and he wonders why this is. The character of Hamlet is prone to reasoning and long soliloquies, not action; this, in my opinion, is his tragic flaw.
The apparition of the late Hamlet informs his son that Claudius, the current king of Denmark, poisoned him. Upon hearing the news, Hamlet is enraged and swears to take revenge against his usurping uncle. Almost immediately he is ready to lay down his life to correct what has been done, and he now has a “…willingness to throw all he has into the contest, the battle to secure his rightful place in his world” (3). It is at this moment in the play that Hamlet takes on the role of the familiar tragic hero and acts accordingly. He was displaced from the life that he knew and loved and was not awarded with his rightful position in society. Hamlet should be the king of Denmark if what the ghost told him is true; not only is Hamlet not the king of Denmark, but also his mental health is constantly being called into question. He is losing ranks in society awfully quickly, and part of Arthur Miller’s...